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Fantasy Craft is a large, 400 page, hardback fantasy role playing system based (albeit very lightly) on the Open Gaming Licence. The cover image is a fun piece of a group of adventurers laying waste to everything in their path – seen through the mouth of the next monster in their path. Inside, which is entirely black and white, the art is also of a high standard.
The content is split into seven chapters:
Hero contains all the information on attributes, origins, and classes.
Lore details action dice, skills, and feats.
Grimoire is the magic section.
Forge covers equipment, armour, weapons, and magic items.
Combat contains all the, well, combat rules.
Foes details creation of NPCs and monsters.
Worlds is the GM section covering world building, adventure building, and running Fantasy Craft.
The font size in each chapter is a little smaller than usual but is very easy to read meaning that you get a lot of information packed into those 400 pages. This is just as well because, although it’s based on the Open Gaming Licence, this is not Dungeons & Dragons. That said, if you are familiar with that game, you will pick up the changes quite easily.
These changes appear almost straight away. Gone are races. Instead your character will have an Origin which is a combination of a Species and a Specialty. There are twelve species detailed; Drake, Dwarf, Elf, Giant, Goblin, Human, Ogre, Orc, Pech, Rootwalker, Saurian, and Unborn. Each of these (aside from humans) has modifications to their base attributes and a number of benefits. Humans, while they also receive benefits, obtain their attribute modifications by selecting a Talent. At its base, a Talent is a word that helps describe the sort of character your human is (from adaptable through to wise). Each also has additional benefits. Specialties are, roughly, job descriptions (from acrobat to wizard) which provide a free feat (the type depends on the Specialty) as well as other benefits. There are 25 Talents and 36 Specialties which, by my poor maths, means that there are 900 options just for humans there!
Classes is another area that has changed. Gone are Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, etc. and in come the Assassin, Burglar, Captain, Courtier, Explorer, Keeper, Lancer, Mage, Priest, Sage, Scout, and Soldier. Likewise, the way classes are designed is different (although those who are familiar with previous Crafty Games products such as Spycraft or Spycraft 2.0 will recognise these changes). Instead of just receiving bonuses to Base Attack Bonus, Fortitude Saves, Reflex Saves, Will Saves, and some special abilities (sometimes), each class also gives bonuses to Defence, Initiative, Lifestyle, and Legend (these last two are new abilities; Lifestyle is a measure of your wealth, while Legend measures your reputation – more on both of them in a bit). Additionally, every level of every class provides a special ability (either a new one or an improvement to an existing one) thus helping to remove that old problem with D&D – the dead level.
Prestige classes are renamed to Expert Classes (in keeping with the naming system from Spycraft 2.0) and six are provided; Alchemist, Beastmaster, Edgemaster, Paladin, Rune Knight, and Swashbuckler. Next in the chain are Master Classes. These offer specialised training and are usually linked to specific setting. Unfortunately, no examples are provided in the rules. To be honest, this is a big omission in my opinion. I understand the need to have them linked to specific settings but without any guidelines, how is a GM to create any? I would have liked to see a couple of semi-generic Master Classes included to, at least, show how to create your own.
One final change is that hit points have been replaced by vitality points and wound points. In simple terms vitality points are your characters ability to withstand the cut and thrust of combat, taking minor bruises and grazes whereas wound points reflect actual damage. Vitality points increase every level (as hit points do in other Open Gaming Licence games) but wound points are determined by your characters Constitution attribute (although they can be increased by the use of feats). When you lose all your vitality points you start taking wound point damage.
Moving on to the Lore chapter and we are introduced to Action Dice. Again this is something that was first introduced in Spycraft and was one of my favourite parts of that system. In essence each character receives a number of action dice depending on their character level. These can then be used, during the game to boost a dice roll, your defence, activate a threat or error, or even heal your character. You can gain more action dice during the game from the GM for various actions and your supply replenishes at the beginning of each session.
The total number of skills in Fantasy Craft has been reduced with some combined with others and new ones appearing. The main difference with skills (again coming from Spycraft) is the idea of errors and threats. Basically, each skill has an error and a threat range. Should you roll a, natural, number within one of them then action dice can be spent to activate the error or threat as appropriate. Up to 4 dice can be used on each activation with result changing depending on how many are spent.
The feats section is, mechanically, unchanged from the OGL. The difference though is the sheer number of feats available – 247! (And, yes, I did count them myself so if the number is wrong, blame me!)
In the Magic section we see, perhaps, one of the biggest changes as Fantasy Craft moves away, completely, from the rules that the Open Gaming Licence has detailed. Firstly, arcane casters gain spell points through their class and spend these whenever they tries to cast a spell (the cost in spell points is equal to the level of the spell). Additionally they must make a Spellcasting skill check to successfully cast the spell. Spell points are recovered (in the majority of cases) at the end of the scene in which they are used. By contrast divine casters don’t gain spell points, instead following a set of Paths (which provided powers) as detailed by the god/belief/alignment they follow.
It isn’t until I get to the Forge chapter before I find a rules addition that I’m not very keen on. Lifestyle determines your general style and how you handle money and is divided between Panache and Prudence. Each time your Lifestyle increases you invest the increase into either of these two. Panache gives you a bonus to Charisma-based skills (but only if your bonus is greater than the target’s) and some silver at the start of every adventure. Prudence is the maximum percentage of money you can transfer into your stake (money you’ve put aside for major purchases). The reason I don’t like this rules addition is that it doesn’t appear to add anything to the game except extra book-keeping. That said it’s easy enough to remove/ignore.
Another rules addition that I’m not entirely keen on is an aspect of Reputation. Reputation is earned by successful adventuring and can be used to increase Renown (your characters standing). Renown is used to set the maximum number of prizes (which include contacts, favours, holdings, and magic items) that your character can keep. The rules for contacts, favours, and holdings appear to be good additions (if a little extra book-keeping) but the restriction on magic items seems too harsh. As written your character can only keep a number of prizes equal to his Renown +1. Each level of Renown costs 50 Reputation points and beginning characters start with 10 Reputation points. Reputation is increased depending on the level of danger involved in the successful adventure (ranging from 2 to 20 points). By my reckoning, this means that, at best, your character isn’t going to be able to increase his Renown until 3rd-level which leaves them with, potentially, only one magical item during that time. A quick look at characters I have from other Open Gaming Licence-based systems shows that they have more than that (albeit, in most cases, in the form of potions, etc.) However, as with Lifestyle it is very easy to amend this rule to better suit the style of game you want to run and I can certainly understand why some may prefer it.
The best part of the Forge chapter, for me, are the rules on the creation of magic items. In Fantasy Craft, magic items are not bought and sold using gold, but using your character’s Reputation. Likewise, the actual creation of a magical item is dealt with using Reputation. Bonuses are broken down into lesser and greater Essences or Charms, each with an associated Reputation cost. The creator picks those bonuses he wants to use and then using his appropriate Craft skill makes enough checks to generate the Reputation required to build it (which could take many months of game time). From a GM perspective it is very easy to create any type of magical item to include in your adventures as treasure.
The Combat chapter appears, at first glance, very similar to other Open Gaming Licence products. However, there are notable exceptions. Gone are attacks of opportunity, iterative attacks, and move/attack options. Instead Fantasy Craft uses half and full actions with characters being able to take two half actions or one full action a round. Half actions can include a standard move, an attack, an aim, or others. Full actions can include a grapple, a run, and mounting (or dismounting) a horse amongst others.
Threat and error ranges are also included in combat whereby if a threat is rolled in combat you don’t reroll to see if you confirm, instead you must spend an action die if you want the hit to confirm. Likewise, if an error is rolled the opponent can spend their action dice to activate it. The damage from confirmed threats affects the opponent’s wound points rather than vitality so can be a very quick way of defeating them. Additionally, if the damage exceeds the opponent’s Constitution score, two action dice may be spent to inflict a critical injury (which results in a roll on the amusingly titled Table of Ouch). All Special characters (PCs and notable NPCs/monsters) have both vitality and wound points, whereas Standard characters (which could otherwise be known as minions or mooks) have a single damage total and must make a save or be out of the fight immediately.
The remainder of the Combat chapter is fairly straightforward and includes all the options you would expect, including options to help move combat from the classic “I hit, you hit” syndrome.
One of the biggest chapters in the book is dedicated to Foes; those NPCs and monsters that your party will met during their adventures. Those who have played other Open Gaming Licence games will find that this chapter is the one with the biggest differences with detailed, but easy to follow, rules on creating any type of NPC or monster you wish. Again, those who are familiar with Spycraft 2.0 will recognise the system used. The GM first decides if the NPC will be a special or standard creature. Special NPCs are the main players in the setting, scenario, or campaign while standard NPCs are those who help form the background (be it innkeepers, watchmen, or goblin minions). The six steps to creating an NPC (concept, statistics, qualities, attacks, gear and treasure, and XP value) are introduced with two, easy-to-follow, examples. What makes this system different is that various aspects of the NPC (initiative and defence, attack, and skills for example) are denoted by the use of Romain Numerals (from I to X) which can then be cross-referenced to the appropriate threat level for the party to ensure that, no matter what level the party are at, the NPCs can provide a suitable challenge. This means that the rest of the chapter, which is split into a Rogues Gallery (traditional NPCs) and Bestiary (monsters), provides a wide variety of creatures, each of which can be used at any level. This does mean that there is a little bit of added book-keeping involved but, in this instance, I don’t believe it detracts from the enjoyment.
This chapter also includes a rather fun random name generator for traditional NPCs (of all playable races) and details on how to convert any creatures from other Open Gaming Licence products you may have.
The final chapter is simply entitled Worlds but covers a wide range of subjects. The chapter starts with a look at world building and covers multiple facets of designing and building your campaign world (whether large- or small-scale). This section is full of very good information that can provide points for consideration or even building blocks for future development. Two sub-sections provide new rules; What Do People Believe? and Campaign Qualities. What Do People Believe? discusses alignments and how they affect society, deities, and introduces the Paths that may be open to divine characters based on the deity they follow. Campaign Qualities are optional rules that can be added to a campaign to give it a twist. There are two types of Campaign Quality; permanent and temporary. Permanent qualities are decided upon when you start your campaign while temporary ones can be added at any time and last until the end of the scene allowing you to add spice to dramatic moments.
Following on from world building are sections on adventure building (again providing good general advice as well as game-specific information regarding the likes of traps and complex tasks–oh, and there are some tables for generating random treasure as well ;), running Fantasy Craft (more good advice about running a game), GM Action Dice (how many the GM gets and how they can use them), managing skill difficulty, managing downtime, disposition, morale, subplots, and cheating death. Yes, PCs can cheat death in Fantasy Craft. This may sound a bit contrived but it looks good. The player who wants their PC to cheat death needs the GMs approval and, if that is forthcoming, must come up with a plausible reason to stay alive. Everyone at the table (GM and other players) then rates this reason from 1 to 5 (the higher the rating the better). These ratings are then averaged. The player rolls on the Cheating Death table and acts upon the averaged rating within–none of which are beneficial and some are downright nasty but the PC is still alive (although they also receive no XP for that adventure). It’s an interesting addition but one I’d only allow if I felt it would add to the story being told.
So, that’s a long review and if you’ve gotten this far then thanks.
Overall, I like Fantasy Craft. Those who know me will know that I wasn’t keen on Spycraft 2.0 and I was a little concerned that Fantasy Craft would be more of the same. I was pleased to find that this wasn’t the case. Yes, Fantasy Craft is built on the same rules as Spycraft 2.0, but they’ve been massaged into something better. As noted, there are a couple of things I’m not keen on but they don’t detract too much from an otherwise excellent game. Indeed, I’m sorely tempted to keep this book but I’ve already agreed to donate it to the Conception raffle.